As featured in the Tasmanian Country publication 24th June 2022
Movement at the station on chronic labour shortages
There are two issues we are hearing about regularly from members at the moment. Neither of them is an issue isolated to agriculture. Both of them have political and geopolitical aspects to them.
They are, without surprise, labour shortages and electricity pricing.
I cannot do either of them justice in today’s column, as their causes are as complicated as their possible solutions. What I can do, is assure our members the TFGA is aware of these issues, we are actively working with the appropriate entities to find some workable options for Tasmanian agriculture and there is light at the end of the labour-shortage tunnel.
As I have spoken to more of you this week about labour shortages that is where I’ll start. We can discuss the thorny electricity chestnut next week, after I have carried out a little more research.
Along with other TFGA staff members, I have had many discussions recently regarding chronic labour shortages across all sectors of our industry — but especially the dairy industry and the Circular Head region. Our current labour predicament stems from a complicated mix of: the impact of COVID on the migrant workforce, a long-term failure to attract Australian workers, geopolitical realignment with the Pacific Islands and a post-Federal-election lack of clarity surrounding schemes such as the AgVisa program. See. Very simple.
What we do know is it isn’t all doom and gloom.
Thank you to Primary Employers Tasmania (PET) for the following National Farmers Federation (NFF) update:
“Between the end of November 2021 and April 2022 about 16,200 working holiday makers (WHMs) have arrived in Australia, with more than 30,000 applications and a total of 54,000 visas granted. There are now 23,700 WHMs in the country. At the start of March 2022 there were roughly 22,000 pacific workers in Australia compared with 5500 at the same time in 2019. There are another 9000 projected to arrive by October 2022. There are also 700 workers on skilled temporary visas.
There is positive movement, but to find workers, farmers may need help navigating the system (e.g. through a experienced recruitment company).
I have also spoken to farmers who have had to change the way they think about employment. They discussed how the idea of having a long-term “full time” employee was gone, but they were having success with keeping a loyal group of casual and part time employees. The rosters on Sunday night are like doing a “rubrics cube” but it was worth it and working. Changing their thinking to having a fleet of part–time and casual people was creating a workable long-term solution.
As I said earlier, this isn’t an issue with a straightforward solution. In the short term there are local labour recruitment companies that can wade through the system and are having success finding suitable candidates. We are aware of the hardships labour shortages cause and are dedicated to helping plot a long-term practical pathway that works for our industry.